Back in training: A silver lining for Dubai players, coaches
UAE Under-19 captain Aryan Lakra. - Supplied photo
Dubai - They are eager to venture into the new normal after Dubai Government's new guidelines laid the groundwork for a return to sport
The Dubai Government's new guidelines laying the groundwork for a return to sport has come as a silver lining for players and coaches.
For almost two months now, they have been in lockdown and have been individually training by using virtual means. But now, with the Dubai Sports Council (DSC) issuing a framework for a resumption of sporting activities, players and coaches are eager to venture into the new normal.
UAE Under-19 captain Aryan Lakra, Dubai-based Indian badminton star Tanisha Crasto as well as cricket academy coaches Presley Polonnowita and Sudhakar Shetty welcomed the move but said they would have to tread with caution in the current climate.
"From the UAE perspective, we haven't received anything officially yet but everyone's been training at home," Aryan told the Khaleej Times on Wednesday.
The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) is set to send out its own circular in line with the government's guidelines and the International Cricket Council's (ICC) recommendations, in the coming days.
"I felt really good because I've been sitting at home for the past couple of months and I've been dying to get out on the field. This is great news for all of us and even though there are some measures we need to take to ensure everyone's safety, I'm hoping cricket training starts as soon as possible," he added.
And Aryan said that it has been a learning experience during the lockdown.
"I was called for the men's camp just after I got back from the Under-19 World Cup and I trained with them for a couple of months before this lockdown and it was a great experience for me because there are a lot of players in the men's team who are playing in different leagues around the world and they have immense experience. There's always a lot to learn from them. You learn a lot just by listening to them or watching them do their thing. On top of that, we have (UAE senior team coach) Robin Singh and training under him has been great. He has been working hard with us and if it wasn't for this lockdown, we could've seen more and more improvements in our game," he explained.
During the lockdown, apart from the programme given out by the ECB, Aryan also worked on the basics of his game.
"Our trainer at the ECB gave us a six-day programme in which we do three days of training with him and the other three days, we do work by ourselves. It has been a hard time for everyone but individually, I didn't let this bring me down. I thought of this as a wonderful opportunity to work on the basics of my game and that can only be done through the small and basic drills for your batting and bowling. So, I've been spending a lot of time doing my drills apart from fitness," said Aryan.
Dubai-based Indian badminton star Tanisha Crasto
Meanwhile, Tanisha had already hit the courts at the Prime Star Sport Academy in Karama three days ago as part of the DSC video shoot highlighting the highest standards of public safety and health protection.
"I had gone for a shoot so I got to train a little bit for the three days," said Tanisha.
"I've never been so happy because after two months, to be finally getting back on the court was not only hard but it was very, very, very nice. It was just wonderful to get back on the court and I really learnt the value of how important this is," she added.
Tanisha, the junior India No.1 in doubles said that she didn't feel rusty despite being off the courts since March.
"During the lockdown, I would go down running, home workouts so it wasn't exactly that bad. I was able to move well, I was able to jump so I didn't face any problems as such. Only a bit on the strokes but I think in a week or two when I keep practicing, I will get that back," felt Tanisha, who represented India at the World Junior Championship in 2018 and 2019.
Regarding the protocols in place, the 17-year-old, who trains at All England champion Pullela Gopichand's Badminton Academy in Hyderabad, India, said: "There's a lot to take care of. You need to keep yourself fit as well as stay safe. You have to make sure you don't touch anything. It is a very different change as of now for a lot of players. But the main focus now is staying safe and getting used to this situation so that at least we can play and perform in any tournament that's coming."
Tanisha has been called up by Goa for the National Games to be held from October 20 to November 4. And Tanisha, who returned home to Dubai in March before the travel restrictions came into effect, is eager to make the trip to Goa, which has been classified in the Green Zone.
"They want me to train there and get used to the courts," she said.
Presley Polonnowita, founder and head coach of Desert Cubs Sports Academy, UAE and Melbourne, said he didn't want to rush into things.
Presley Polonnowita, founder and head coach of Desert Cubs Sports Academy
"Everybody is eagerly waiting to get back to cricket but personally, I believe we need to check everything before we get back into action and to get kids back to outdoor or indoor activities," said Presley, who reckoned it will take a month to put everything in place.
"Maybe start with one or two kids and probably four to five kids then small groups of eight kids. But most importantly, we have to make sure whether the parents have the confidence to send their kids outside. We know still the atmosphere is not all that great and also we have to consider trained staff and with proper discipline. Coaches also have to adhere to these new health protocols, one net for few kids," he added.
Polonnowita, a fast bowling all-rounder back in the day and who represented the Sri Lanka Under-18 team led by Marvan Atapattu on a tour of England in 1988, said that safety was paramount.
"Main priority has to be safety, wellbeing and also enjoyment. So, we have to make sure that while implementing all of these, we don't kill the coaching part and the enjoyment. So, we need to train our staff. We need time to train our coaches. I don't want to rush into anything and put a lot of people at risk. I believe we have to get on the drawing board and prepare a plan as per their strength. It is our responsibility," Polonnowita said.
Desert Cubs Academy, which was formed in 2007 with 10 kids, now trains 700 to 800 children. They also give specialised coaching in badminton, swimming and athletics but cricket is their primary focus with five floodlit facilities in Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah.
During the lockdown, the cricket trainees underwent an online programme during which the academy invited cricket stars and coaches to guide their wards.
Meanwhile Sudhakar Shetty, who runs the Maxtalent Global Sports Cricket Academy, said that the government's step will bring a lot of positivity.
Sudhakar Shetty runs the Maxtalent Global Sports Cricket Academy
"The decision is definitely a welcome one," said Shetty, whose academy was one of the first to use e-cricket during the lockdown.
"But it does have its own little problem also and one of the things is most kids are at the last stage of their exams so obviously the parents would not be too keen. Second, the heat. We are into the thick of summer. Ideally, we would love to forget this whole Covid episode but how much does it help when it comes to parents deciding to send their child confidently. They still would feel about the risk so that's another area that we need to look into. But I have to compliment the Dubai government for taking this initiative to open up. At least people will start thinking positively and think life has to move on. We have to embrace it," he added.
On his academy's plans, he said: "We, as an academy, will be hitting the blocks and begin training in the first week of June. We would have our flock back together but not all possibly. The older boys will be coming in. We will also display boards outside our academy to ensure that everyone follows the norms, the government regulations. We would like to keep a strict control on things. We have to follow social distancing norms as strictly as possible."